Senior acting majors collaborated with playwrights to produce their senior capstone Playwrights Actor Project which was livestreamed via Facebook on Saturday, May 9. The night of performances featured 11 original works created by 11 award-winning professional playwrights. The seniors hosted a Q&A after the performance and a special surprise prerecorded address was shared featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley (also a Tony and Academy Award winner) who welcomed the graduating seniors into the professional community.
Because the senior acting majors were unable to have a live capstone presentation in the theatre, the Shenandoah Conservatory acting program decided to find a way to take the focus off the losses in their final semester by initiating the Playwright Actor Project. This creative experience, spearheaded by Visiting Associate Professor of Theatre Martha Wollner, M.A., was a one-on-one collaborative pairing of a professional playwright and a senior acting major to create a personal monologue for the actor. The duo connected via some form of communication (phone, Zoom, Skype, etc.) to share ideas and get to know one another. Once a first draft was produced, the two came back together again to ‘listen together’ to the draft. When the piece was finished, the actor started to work on their performance of the piece. The actors planned and produced the one-night performance of the pieces for Shenandoah Conservatory and family on the online platform. Playwrights were also invited to join the performance for a post-performance talkback after the show.
Participating playwrights and screenwriters ranged from a Pulitzer Prize winner to film and television screenwriters, to members of New York’s Ensemble Studio Theatre’s famed Youngblood Writers Group.
“It is truly an exciting mashup of dramatic voices, personally paired to match up with the actors,” said Wollner.